Anyone who has spent much time eating Persian food knows how important chicken is, whether it’s roast chicken, chicken with pomegranate sauce and walnuts, or chicken kebab. So a chicken shortage or, worse yet, unaffordable chicken is a real problem, and it is doubly so during Ramadan. Right now, just at the moment that even the Iranian government has confessed the “devastating” effect of Western sanctions, the country is in the grips of a major chicken crisis.
Chicken prices have tripled in the last year, and nearly doubled in the last month, which has priced a significant number of Iranians out of the chicken market (or perhaps we should say it has priced Iranian chickens out of a significant number of households). Either way, there are a lot of very angry Iranians, who not surprisingly are blaming their government for this foul state of affairs. In part, the government is blameless, since the cost of imports and the cost of feed grain have been driven up by the sanctions. But then again, the behavior of the government provoked the sanctions in the first place, and the singularly incompetent economic policies of the regime probably constitute the most important cause of the crisis.
Worse still, the rising costs of feed grains – corn and wheat have increased about 50% as a result of drought, especially in the American Middle West – have made it impossible for many Iranian producers to continue to raise and sell chickens. It is not unusual nowadays to see long lines in front of chicken merchants, and the Iranians, with a sense of humor reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s greatest hits, have now started to talk about “chicken lines,” which divide the society between those who can both afford and obtain chickens, and those who cannot.
For its part, the regime is reacting with consummate cloddishness. The Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, an infamous Holocaust denier who has offices in London as well as Iran, achieved celebrity by proclaiming “So what if people don’t eat chicken?” Doctors agree that meat is bad for you, after all (hat tip: Potkin).
This sort of buffoonery has not tamed the national chicken craving, and angry crowds are demonstrating around the country, especially when the national media foolishly ran pictures of a recent Tehran conference at which the attendees ate…well, you know what they ate.